By Hilary Corrigan

Triplicate staff writer

Black abalone may take a spot on the Endangered list, following a review by the National Marine Fisheries Service that found the marine mollusk nearly extinct in much of its range along the California coast.

The abalone population has dropped by more than 90 percent at about half of the sample sites that the federal agency surveyed, according to the finding published Friday in the federal register. The decline started in the south and has reached northern waters.

Black abalone live mostly in shallow intertidal waters off the state's southern end, but range up the rocky coastline into Oregon.

The service will take public comments until June 12, then form a team to start a review that will recommend a listing decision at the end of 2008.

The move follows a petition late last year from the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity that sparked the federal process.

The abalone population has dropped mainly because of overfishing. Commercial and recreational abalone fishing closed in the 1990s, although poaching continues.

Another fatal threat comes from Withering Syndrome, a bacteria that appeared in the 1980s and kills the animal by causing its tissue to atrophy. Linked to warmer water temperatures, the disease has spread north, hitting formerly stable abalone populations.

andquot;We were worried about the species, but we weren't ready to list it,andquot; said National Marine Fisheries Service biologist Melissa Neuman of the formerly stable populations.

Reach Hilary Corrigan at

Offer Your Views

The public can comment on the issue and data that could lead to listing the black abalone under the Endangered Species Act. Visit or or write to the Protected Resources Division at the National Marine Fisheries Service at 501 West Ocean Blvd., suite 4200, Long Beach, CA, 90802. For more information, call 301-713-1401.discuss how it will fill the vacancy created when Council Member Herb Kolodner leaves on May 7.

Reach Nicholas Grube at

Joint Session

?What: Joint meeting of Del Norte County Board of Supervisors and Crescent City Council, followed by the regularly scheduled council meeting

?When: 4:30 p.m. Monday

?Where: Crescent City Cultural Center